This book critically examines "just liberal violence": forms of direct and structural violence that others may be "justly" subjected to. Michael Neu focusses on liberal defences of torture, war and sweatshop labour, respectively, and argues that each of these defences fails and that all of them fail for similar reasons.
Liberal defences of violence share several blind spots, and it is the task of this book to reveal them. Neu offers a unifying perspective that reveals the three kinds of defence of violence under investigation as being essentially one of a kind. He demonstrates that each of these defences suffers from serious and irreparable intellectual defects and articulates these defects in a synthesised critique. The book goes on to accuse liberal defenders of being complicit in contemporary structures and practices of violence, and highlights the implications of this argument for moral and political philosophers who spend their professional lives thinking about morality and politics.
Chapter 1: A Plea for Defiance / Chapter 2: Just Liberal Violence / Chapter 3: Sweatshops / Chapter 4: Torture / Chapter 5: War / Chapter Six: Complicity / Bibliography / Index
Just Liberal Violence offers a much needed, carefully developed and highly original critique of the inadequacies of contemporary thinking about violence. Michael Neu masterfully succeeds where most academics fail, writing eloquently about topics of utmost political concern without sacrificing complexity and nuance. This engaging book is political theory at its very best: scholarly, but not scholastic; combative, but not polemical; timely, but not faddish. Anybody interested in understanding and responding to violence will have something to learn from it.
Michael Neu's critique of liberal approaches to violence is damning. With calm, cool logic, he undermines the premises upon which justifications for cruelty are based. His book is also a call for a more politically effective resistance to complicity with violence. Neu points to some productive ways forward.
Just Liberal Violence is a superb example of applied philosophical analysis to a key normative issue. Rarely have I read such a clear, intelligent and convincing demolition of liberal justifications for war, torture and sweat-shop labour. Anyone who thinks Western military intervention or the structures of globalisation are morally justified should read this book. The defenders of just war theory should read it. In fact, anyone with a conscience should read Just Liberal Violence. It is a book for our times.
Michael Neu’s Just Liberal Violence brilliantly dissects the self-serving conceits, twisted morality and limiting vision of liberal thinking that help sustain pain, suffering and poverty in our world. A tour-de-force, to be read by anyone concerned by the complicity of contemporary intellectuals in providing succour for the violence of ‘just’ wars, interrogational torture or sweatshops, and a passionate plea for us all to critically engage in the imagination of better futures.
A must-read critique of liberal views on sweatshops, torture and war. Just Liberal Violence not only diagnoses why analytic liberal political philosophy is a flawed methodology, but also reveals how it is complicit in maintaining injustice. A blistering ‘plea for defiance,’ Just Liberal Violence is a necessary addition to any heterodox political theory reading list.
Michael Neu is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Politics and Ethics at the University of Brighton. He has published articles in International Relations, Social Theory and Practice and The Journal of International Political Thought.